All is set for the daylong visit of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, the 49th Imam of Shia Ismaili Muslims, to Chitral on Saturday.
The Imam will land in Chitral early in the morning where he would be received by elected representatives and government officers. He is expected to hold a brief meeting at the airport with different representatives before leaving for Booni to meet his followers there.
People from all sub-valleys of Upper Chitral have thronged to areas near the Diadargah set up at the riverbed near Booni. It is expected that the His Highness will give Didar to 80,000 to 90,000 Ismailis here. The pilgrims will start entering the Didargah early Saturday and the gates will be closed two hours before the arrival of the His Highness. People who have already reached the area are staying in Booni, Kuragh, Awi, Meragram No 1 etc. The remaining, especially from nearby areas such as Sonoghur, Parwak, Mastuj, Chuinj, Chapali, Brep and Mulkhow, will be arriving by early on Saturday. Al those coming from the Mastuj side will alight from their vehicles in front of the Didargah and cross the new bridges over the river to reach the venue.
After meeting his followers, the Aga Khan will fly to Garam Chashma to give Didar to the Ismailis of lower Chitral. The venue for the congregation has been prepared on a private property owned by Shahzada Taimoor Khisraw. Sources told ChitralToday that about 50,000 to 60,000 followers of the Aga Khan were expected to have a glimpse of their Imam at this place.
Chitral Scouts and police personnel will be deployed on the security of both the Didargahs. Extra security personnel have also arrived in Chitral to help the local police and Scouts.
When contacted by ChitralToday, Shahzada Khisraw said it would be for the third time that the His Highness would be meeting his followers at the Didargah set up on his land, including agricultural fields. He said not only the Ismailis but also the Sunni community was ready to welcome the Aga Khan. He said irrespective of their sectarian affiliations, people of Chitral were an example for others for their peaceful co-existence, tolerance and harmony, the true spirits of Islam. Divisions on the basis of faith is not only against the teachings of Islam but also dangerous for the integrity of the country, he observed.
He said the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) had played a leading role in the socio-economic progress of Chitral. Education and healthcare are crucial for the progress of any nation and today we can see Chitral being one of the few advanced districts in terms of education. He said it was because of the Aga Khan’s vision that Hunza had now attained over 97pc literacy rate. The availability of electricity in remote villages of Chitral is also the result of the AKDN’s initiatives, he added.
Afzal Ali, a noted Ismaili figure of Booni, told ChitralToday that whenever the His Highness visited Chitral in the past the Sunni community remained in the fore front in helping the Ismailis in making arrangements and welcoming the dignitary. He said it was not unusual as even in one family there were brothers and sisters belonging to both schools of thought.
Qazi Ghulam Rabbani, another prominent personality of Booni belonging to the Sunni community, said people of Chitral had lived in peace and harmony for centuries.
Whatever happened in 1982 we (Sunni and Ismaili communities) are remorseful about it but such incidents will never dent our resolve to maintain the exemplary peace of our area. The Ismail community has also been in the front in extending a helping hand to us whenever we need any.
Mr Rabbani said the word had become a global village and we want fragrance of communal harmony and peace of Chitral spread out and reach the entire world.
It may be noted that the visit of the His Highness has inspired unprecedented sectarian harmony, brotherhood and unity in Chitral besides promoting the spirit of volunteerism among the locals.